Mick Telkamp

Mick Telkamp

peppermint extract
Along with Christmas trees, gingerbread and chocolate, peppermint is one of the season's most powerful aromas.

Ok, I’ll say it. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Hard to miss. I have been reminded by the sights and sounds since sometime around Halloween (like it or not). I’m happy to report the calendar has finally caught up with the spirit and not a moment too soon. I’m feeling right festive about it. All of those sight and sounds are lovely, of course. For my money though, it’s the smells and tastes of the season that really put me in the mood. The culinary joys are many, but nothing says Christmas to me quite like peppermint. What better time then, to make peppermint extract?

Peppermint extract may sit untouched in the pantry for much of the year, but when the holiday season descends, suddenly every recipe seems to call for it. Candy, cookies, cakes or pies. Peppermint is always a refreshing addition and is a welcome calling card of holiday baking. Adding a dash to a cup of hot chocolate is transformational.

Mint is easy to grow. As anyone who has planted a little will tell you, a little can become a lot really quickly. Here’s where that rampant and sometimes uninvited growth pays off. Making your own peppermint extract is the perfect use of the copious mint you’ve grown this year and the results will take that holiday baking to a whole new level.

This simple recipe for homemade peppermint extract takes about five minutes to prepare and a few weeks to steep. Start now and you can be ready to go before the presents are under the tree.

Peppermint extract also offers an added benefit for the holiday season. If you’ve eaten too many of those spectacular holiday treats when the baking is done, add a little of your homemade peppermint extract to a cup of tea. It’s also good for soothing an upset stomach.

Homemade Peppermint Extract

1 cup fresh peppermint leaves
1 cup vodka (80-100 proof)

Wash peppermint leaves and remove any discolored leaves.

Roughly chop leaves and bruise by lightly striking with a mallet or squeezing to coax the oils from the leaves.

Fill a half-pint jar loosely with chopped mint leaves and pour vodka over the leaves to completely cover, leaving at least half an inch of air at the top.

Tightly seal the jar and give it a good shake before storing in a cool, dark place.

Allow the extract to steep for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking the jar every couple of days to agitate the leaves.

Once desired strength has been reached, strain the leaves from the extract using a fine strainer or cheesecloth.

Return the extract to the jar for storage (or transfer into an attractive jar or bottle as an unusual and crafty holiday gift!)

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